Women Who Knew Jesus
by Rev. Dr. Bonnie Ring
BookVenture Publishing

"Whatever we do, seeking our own wholeness should be our first priority."

After years of working as a psychologist and as an ordained minister, Ring presents a manual for the study of women whom Jesus of Nazareth encountered in the course of his life, beginning before his birth and continuing after his death and resurrection. Ring’s study of these women began with a focus on five subjects, but later she was encouraged to expand the circle. The many women included here range from the well-known, such as Mary the mother of Jesus, to a crippled woman healed in a synagogue, a poor widow contributing her “mite,” Simon Peter’s mother, and even the wife of Pontius Pilate. In each case study Ring is not merely recounting a Biblical story, but, in a sense, composing a vibrant sermonette.

Her portrait of some of the better-known characters is multi-faceted. Thus, we see Mary receiving a message from an angel, and agreeing by faith to her contract with God to deliver his child; but later there is Mary, harried and aggravated when she can’t find her son at age 12 when he is conversing with the elders, and reacting just like a typical parent exasperated with a pre-teen offspring. Later, Mary expresses her utmost confidence in the powers of her now grown son when she urges him to supply some wine for the Cana wedding feast. One especially poignant story concerns the “woman with an issue of blood.” She would have been considered unclean by her community, yet she boldly moves through the crowd so that she can just touch Jesus’s garment—such is her faith in his healing gifts. Jesus rewards her not with a scathing criticism of her humiliating impure state but with kind words and the healing she seeks.

Designed as a guided study based on the many retreats and workshops the author has conducted, each of the book’s chapters concentrates on one female subject and contains a biblical account (sometimes from more than one Gospel writer), numerous guided meditations, several reflection questions, and a conclusion. One can sense the author’s acumen as a psychologist, such as when she recreates the encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well. Ring speculates about the woman’s outcast status, her sense of shame about her origins and her adulteries, combined with her courage at speaking to Jesus as an equal and engaging with him on theological issues. Similarly, in describing Pilate’s attitude when his wife dares to tell him not to condemn the man from Nazareth, Ring is touching on the way that women, even those of noble birth, were regarded by the Romans. Through these vignettes, the author underscores the general place of women in that era and the many ways that Jesus cut through the usual barriers and treated women with equality.

Ring’s scholarship is evident throughout this groundbreaking work as is her religious tolerance. She examines motivations as well as actions and compares different Gospel accounts and the significance of those differences, especially in regard to the role of women. She has meticulously ferreted out all connections—from the most famous to the most obscure—that Jesus had with females. She gives modern students many emotional and spiritual points to ponder with her guided meditations (reflecting the input of many of her workshop participants over the years) while not shrinking from offering her own perspectives, which are measured, well-informed, and valuable. Her writing style encompasses simple stories, erudite theological argument, and provocative, emotive insights that offer her readers a means of identification with these remarkable women of old. In a brightly illustrated format with clear, organized text and exercises, Ring has created a powerful, practical textbook for and about religious women. Her work could make a fine study guide for women’s groups focused on spiritual issues.

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